What a difference a year makes for Beckett

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What a difference a year makes for Beckett

By Sean McAdam
CSNNE.com

NEW YORK -- A year ago, Josh Beckett's worst season in the big leagues seemed to begin with a poor start against the New York Yankees.

The Red Sox starter slipped on a wet mound during a rainy night on May 18, wrenching his back and sending his spiraling season into disappointment.

It would be more than two months before Beckett would pitch again after that fateful night, and even then, he wasn't very good. In five starts against the Yankees, Beckett was 1-2 with a 10.64 ERA.

This year, in stark contrast, Beckett has re-established himself as an elite pitcher. He sports a microscopic ERA of 1.75 and has a current scoreless streak of 18 innings.

And, though wouldn't you know it, it may well have been a start against the Yankees in the second week of the season that keyed his turnaround.

That dominance continued Saturday night when Beckett blanked the Yankees on four hits over six innings, pacing the Red Sox 6-0 win over New York.

The Sox have beaten the Yankees four times in 2011; twice, Beckett has been the pitcher of record.

"That's a tough lineup,'' said Beckett. "There's not many holes there.''

Beckett, however, has toyed with the Yankees twice in two starts. In his first home start on April 10, he allowed just two hits over eight innings while striking out 10.

Saturday, with his pitch count pushed upward, he was going to go out for the bottom of the seventh until his teammates took a 2-0 lead and made it 6-0 in the top of the inning.

By then, there was nothing left to prove.

The same guy seemingly incapable of beating the Yankees last year now suddenly can't lose.

What's most impressive -- and encouraging, for the Red Sox -- is that Beckett took a different approach to the Yankees this time than he did when he faced them the first time.

"I didn't have the curve ball that I had when I faced them in Boston,'' said Beckett. "We kept throwing it, though. I felt like I made pitches when I needed to.''

"Tonight, we made some adjustments,'' echoed catcher Jason Varitek. "We pitched a little bit different than we did the first time. He had a good changeup and we were able to use it to both the lefties and righties.''

Working out of jams in the first inning -- two on, none out -- third -- two on, two out -- and fifth innnig -- two on, one out -- were all keys, but none was more important than wiggling out of trouble in the first.

Just two hitters in, with a single to center by Derek Jeter and a line single to right by Curtis Granderson, the Yankees already had as many hits as they gathered in eight innings when they faced him last month.

"The most important out in those innings is the first,'' said Beckett. "It's a lot harder to manufacture a run with one out that it is than no outs.''

So Beckett's strikeout of Mark Teixeira -- followed in short order by a popup by Alex Rodriguez and another strikeout to Robinson Cano -- started it out.

The Yankees didn't know it, but their best chance had come and gone in the first inning. After that, Beckett allowed just four more baserunners over his final five innings. No Yankee reached third base against him.

"It's nice to pitch,'' said Beckett, allowing himself the smallest bit of satisfaction. "It would have been a little bit better if I could eliminate a walk and pitched into the seventh.''

Those are the words of a perfectionist. But if you're looking for evidence that Beckett is again a front-of-the-rotation starter, you need look no further than his results against the team against whom he could do no right a year ago.

Sean McAdam can be reached at smcadam@comcastsportsnet.com. Follow Sean on Twitter at http:twitter.comsean_mcadam

Pedroia returns to lineup as Sox look to extend winning streak to six

Pedroia returns to lineup as Sox look to extend winning streak to six


After leaving Thursday night's game in the fifth inning and missing Friday night's game, Dustin Pedroia is back in the Red Sox lineup Saturday as they look to extend their winning streak to six in a 4:05 game against the Seattle Mariners.

Pedroia felt pain his left knee Thursday night and was taken out of the game by manager John Farrell as a precaution. The rainy conditions and wet field were also factors in keeping the second baseman out Thursday and Friday. 

Pedroia (.288, two homers, 21 RBI) had surgery on the knee in October. It's the same leg that was hurt when Manny Machado slid into Pedroia at second base in April, the slide that sparked various confrontations between the Orioles and Red Sox.

Left-hander Brian Johnson (1-0, 7.20 ERA) was called up from Triple-A Pawtucket to make his second start of the season for Boston and right-handed reliever Ben Taylor was optioned to the PawSox. Right-hander Rob Whalen, 23,  comes up from Triple-A Tacoma to make his first start of the season for the Mariners. 

The lineups:

MARINERS
Jean Segura SS
Danny Valencia 1B
Robinson Canó 2B
Nelson Cruz DH
Kyle Seager 3B
Taylor Motter LF
Guillermo Heredia RF
Mike Zunino C
Jarrod Dyson CF
---
Rob Whalen RHP

RED SOX
Mookie Betts RF
Dustin Pedroia 2B
Xander Bogaerts SS
Andrew Benintendi LF
Hanley Ramirez DH
Mitch Moreland 1B
Jackie Bradley Jr. CF
Sandy Leon C
Deven Marrero 3B
---
Brian Johnson LHP 

Rodriguez continues strong stretch as Red Sox blank Seattle, 3-0

Rodriguez continues strong stretch as Red Sox blank Seattle, 3-0

BOSTON -- The Red Sox scored runs in bunches in tallying four consecutive victories. They leaned on pitching and defense to earn their latest.

Eduardo Rodriguez pitched six scoreless innings and the Red Sox took advantage of a sloppy performance by the Seattle Mariners for their season-high fifth straight win, 3-0 on Friday night.

It was the third win in a row for Rodriguez (4-1), who gave up just five hits and struck out four while throwing a season-high 112 pitches. Craig Kimbrel earned his 13th save.

"I just go out there and pitch," Rodriguez said. "I'm never really thinking about numbers. I just go out there and throw my pitches and do the best I can do."

That effort is producing one of the best stretches of his three-year career.

Rodriguez has pitched at least six innings in his last seven starts, going 4-0 in that span. He hasn't allowed a run in 10 innings and only 11 runs in his last 49 1/3 innings. His ERA is just 2.01 over that same period.

"He was amazing," Jackie Bradley Jr. said. "Put zeroes on the board all night long. And he made the big pitch when he needed to."

The only run support Rodriguez needed came in the second inning, when Hanley Ramirez scored on Josh Rutledge's RBI groundout. Boston added two more runs in the sixth, scoring on a wild pitch and passed ball.

Manager John Farrell said his 24-year-old pitcher is in a "very good place" right now.

"He was powerful tonight," he said. "It's just a matter of his abilities coming together. This has always been an extremely talented young guy. We've talked about his maturity, we've talked about his progression. It's been on display here for a good number of starts consecutively."

Yovani Gallardo (2-5) took the loss. He lasted 5 1/3 innings, gave up seven hits and was responsible for all three of Boston's runs.

"The whole night obviously wasn't consistent," he said.

Seattle has won just one of its last seven.

Meanwhile, Boston gave Rodriguez got lots of help defensively. Bradley had a pair of nice plays, getting an outfield assist in the second and running down another ball on the warning track in the sixth.

In addition to the pitching miscues, the Mariners had all kinds of issues in the wet conditions, committing two fielding errors.

The Red Sox left 11 runners on base, leaving the door open for the Mariners to get back in the game. But Seattle couldn't capitalize, going 0 for 6 with runners in scoring position. The Mariners also left seven runners stranded.

TRAINER'S ROOM

Mariners: LHP James Paxton (strained left forearm) was slated to make a rehab start Friday night in Double-A Arkansas. He has been on the 10-day disabled list since May 5. He could be activated for a start at the end of the month against Colorado.

Red Sox: Infielder Marco Hernandez will be out the remainder of the season after undergoing stabilization surgery on his left shoulder on Friday. Hernandez was placed on the disabled list May 4 with a left shoulder misalignment. The 24-year-old hit .276 with two RBIs in 21 games. ... A night after he left the game with left knee pain, 2B Dustin Pedroia was held out Friday for what Farrell said was "precautionary reasons" because of the wet playing surface.

MISSING: OFFENSE

Mariners manager Scott Servais said they are doing everything they can to find production from an offense that has gone missing.

"Offensively, we struggled to put innings together. That's kind of been the story here for the last week or so, we just haven't gotten the line moving at all, for whatever reason," he said. "Guys are frustrated by it, we all are. We know we're better than that, offensively. It's not happening right now."

Seattle was held scoreless for the fourth time this season.

UP NEXT

Mariners: RHP Rob Whalen (0-2, 4.09 ERA in Triple-A Tacoma) will be making his first major league start since last season with Atlanta. He will be 12th different starting pitcher the Mariners have used this season.

Red Sox: LHP Brian Johnson (1-0, 7.20 ERA) will be making his second major league start this year and third of his career.